Riding in the Argo

Recently we went on a field trip to Rodinka the large hill/small mountain that dominates our eastern view. Wearing our bug shirts, and covered in DEET, we rode on a bus blasting Russian techno hits. It could have been a party bus, if it hadn’t been full of mosquitoes and gnats. As we drove through the outskirts of Cherskiy, we found scraps of metal, old cranes and dilapidated boats; remnants of Cherskiy’s glory days as a large Soviet port.

For months we have been looking at maps and satellite images of the Kolyma, and from the top of Rodinka we could see for miles over the endless of lakes, winding Kolyma and down on our barge home. It was breathtaking.

Sergei Zimov took us on a tour of the Bulldozer site, where he plows down boreal forest, including the active soil layer, to restore the productive grasslands that existed in the Pleistocene era. Because of a bum ankle, I could not hike the three kilometers to the site with the group. Instead I got the chance to pick the brain of the mastermind behind the Northeast Science Station, Sergei Zimov. Zimov drove me in the argo, an eight wheeled all terrain vehicle (really, it is even a boat). We crashed through the forest, taking down seven-foot trees, climbing dirt mounds and turning on a dime. Because we were speeding along faster than the walkers (at times 20km/hr), we would stop periodically and sit.

Lydia and Zimov

Me and Zimov on the Argo

At some of the stops Zimov would tell me about his reasoning for the bulldozer experiment or his plan for Pleistocene Park, other times we would sit in silence while he smoked. During our two-hour excursion he must have smoked a pack of cigarettes. He calmly smoked, while I frantically swatted the mosquitoes swarming around us. I tried to be strong, but I finally caved and zipped up my bug shirt. Zimov told me that this was not a lot of mosquitoes. A lot of mosquitoes is when you spit on your hand, smack your shoulder and catch over a hundred; a huge amount of mosquitoes is over three hundred. I can’t imagine.

On the way back home, we ran over a downed tree that got stuck in the argo. When he returned from removing it, he handed me a twig and said, “Eat this.” To my surprise it was covered in blueberries. My ankle injury has hindered me quite a bit this summer, but in this case it gave me the unique opportunity to interact with Zimov. During the ride I got to eat delicious berries, destroy fifty trees, and soak up the wisdom of a seasoned ecologist.